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How to help your blind or visually impaired infant sleep

Maintaining your relationship when you have a disabled child

Mary McDonach explores the high incidence of divorce among parents raising a disabled child. She advises devoting energy to your relationship plan in order to keep the partnership of parenting intact.

“So Dad, When Can I Go Surfing?” Letting Your Blind Child Experience Adventures in the World

Eric Vasiliauskas writes about encouraging independence and exploration in your blind children.

Breastfeeding & Bonding with Your Visually Impaired Infant

Breast feeding a baby can be difficult, especially if they have a vision impairment. Learn about your options when choosing to nurse a blind or visually impaired baby.

The Best Stroller for Your Toddler & Your Small Car!

The Mia Moda Veloce is by far the best stroller for toddlers. Plus it will also fit into any small compact car.

Help! I Need a Car Seat for my Toddler!

Learn how to choose a toddler car seat or booster seat based on your child’s weight and height and check out our favorite seats for older kids.

Our Favorite Strollers

There are so many strollers on the market and they can be a really big investment. Here are our favorites.

Creating Lasting Memories with your Visually Impaired Child

We’ve got some great creative ways to make lasting memories to share with your child as they grow. These ideas are great for parents of blind children.

I Need an Affordable Stroller for my Special Needs Child!

It can be difficult to find a good stroller for your child when they have special needs. If your insurance company is refusing to help you buy a stroller then you need something affordable and easy to find. Come see our three top picks!

Bullying: A Parent’s Perspective on Raising a Blind Child

Are you worried your blind child may have trouble fitting in with their sighted peers? We’ll give you some advice to help you keep your kid bully free!

Raising a Blind Child

Here you’ll find a step-by-step resource guide with the most pertinent articles and resources for parents of blind or disabled babies.

Letting Your Blind Child’s Wild Side Out

Milagro is an active growing five year-old who is also visually impaired. Her self-confidence and adventurous spirit is no accident. Her mother Graciela believes in letting a child’s wild side out!

Swimming with a Child Who is Visually Impaired

Has your child ever done something so amazing that you felt like you were about to pop with pride? Mary tells the story of how her daughter learned to swim, on her own, following her own rules.

Yes You Can! How to encourage your blind child without pushing too hard

Have you ever thought about all the things your child *can’t* do because of their disability? It can be depressing, but one way to get over that is to figure out how to make inaccessible activities accessible, but it’s also important to remember not to push your child into activities they simply don’t find interesting.

A Miracle Baby: Abigail’s Story

Read the story of Abigail’s birth and how her parents reacted to finding out that she was blind.

The Little Princess: Paige’s Story

Read the story of Jade’s pregnancy, the birth of her little princess, Paige, and how she reacted to finding out that she was blind.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Did you know that it’s never too early to begin teaching your blind baby orientation and mobility skills?

Even if your blind infant is only a few months old and certainly ins’t moving anywhere on her own, orientation and mobility is still a key factor to future independence and many of the basic teachings can begin as early as infancy.

You may now be asking…

What is Orientation and Mobility, anyway?

Orientation and mobility training (usually abbreviated O&M) is really just another way of saying that blind people need to be taught how to get around independently. Orientation skills help people figure out where they are and mobility skills help them move about.

If your baby isn’t walking (and it’s perfectly normal for crawling and walking to be delayed in visually impaired children), you can still help your baby learn about the environment and pick up on clues and cues that will tell them where they are and what’s coming up next. You may not be ready to teach your baby how to walk with a cane, but you can lay the foundation for basic orientation skills now while your baby is still very young.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Directions and Body Awareness

A very basic place to begin is with directions and body awareness. Whenever you have the opportunity, point out directions like left, right, in front, and behind. Get used to saying things like, “Your ball is next to your right knee,” rather than, “Your ball is next to you.” Teaching your baby orientation skills means that you too will have to learn how to talk about orientation properly.

Learning about the self and how the body is connected is a very important beginning skill for blind babies. Play games where you name body parts, sing “Head & Shoulders,” and name body parts while in the bath. Most orientation begins with the person and then moves out to the environment. In other words, when directing a blind child across the room you would refer to their position first (move forward, turn left, etc) then tell them where things are located in relation to their own body (the door is on your right). It wouldn’t make sense to say something like, “The door is over there.” Understanding directions and body parts is very important.

If your child has light perception, use this to your advantage when talking about directions. Point out that the open window is on their right or play with flash lights and have them grab the light or point to it. Being able to decipher open windows or doors, find light sources, or see lighted pathways will help your child tremendously when they begin moving around on their own.

Environmental Sounds

Besides light and directions, sounds play a very important role in orientation. Teach your baby to listen to the cars going by on the street, to the refrigerator humming in the kitchen, or to the sounds of the television downstairs in the living room. Point out that far away sounds are quiet or muffled and pick out important sounds in your house or neighborhood (each room in your house may have a particular sound like a clock ticking or a sink dripping).

Pay close attention to sounds that will help your child get around when they are older, such as cross walk signals or car horns beeping. Also teach them about dangerous sounds they will want to avoid, like a growling dog or a truck backing up.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Games You Can Play Now

Of course, your baby is still just a baby and probably responds best to fun and games, so why not make up orientation games? Here a few that we like to play with our son, Ivan:

  • Listening Play: One of Ivan’s favorite games is to throw his blocks and listen to what they hit. We set him up in the living room with a box of blocks and surrounded by different targets (a cookie sheet, a toy drum, the carpet, the tile floor behind him, etc). He throws blocks in different directions then waits to hear what he hit. This helps him learn to listen and to identify objects in different locations around him.
  • Cane Play: See if you can get a hold of a cane for your baby now, even though they aren’t walking yet. We think it’s a great idea to familiarize your child with the object that will be so important to their independence when they get older. You can begin teaching them now that canes make different sounds and feel different in your hand when you touch different objects. Sit your baby in your lap and hold on to the cane with him while you tap carpet, tile, wood, plastic, and other surfaces. Describe the difference in sound and feel.
  • Texture Play: Touching different textures with your hands is also very helpful in understanding what’s around you. Take your baby for a walk down the street and have her touch everything while you describe it for her. Some blind babies will react negatively to certain textures, such as sticky or gooey things. If you encounter this problem, put together a “sticky box” where you fill a box with all sorts of sticky things your child just hates to touch. Try to play with the box a few times a week in order to desensitize them. And feeling doesn’t stop at the hands! Be sure to get their feet in that box, too!
  • Pointing Play: Another fun orientation game can be to point to things as they go by, like cars going by on the street outside your home. You can close your eyes and join in, too!

Have fun with your baby while you teach them how to pay attention to their environment. These simple games can motivate your child to move independently when they get older and will make their future orientation and mobility training seem easy and natural.

Read this article in Arabic: قراءة هذا المقال بالعربية

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Infants and toddlers grow so quickly and learn so many things. In the beginning, if they are not sleeping, they’re eating or needing a diaper change. Believe it or not, there are things you can do with your infant to help him learn to one day feed himself, dress himself, and use the bathroom independently. Although he’ll need a little extra help learning these things because of his visual impairment, your baby will grow into a little person who walks and talks too. Though he may need longer than other children his age to begin using words or moving on his own, he’ll get there with your help.

The articles in this section are packed full of ideas for you and your young child, including:

  • Look Who’s Talking! 5 Ways to Expand a Young Blind Child’s Communication Behaviors
  • Understanding the Stages of Language Development for Babies Who Are Blind
  • Helping Your Visually Impaired Child Develop Good Motor Skills
  • Getting Ready for Potty Training
  • It’s Time to Sit on the Potty! Toilet Training a Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Getting Your Baby to Sleep on a “Normal” Schedule
  • Development: An Overview for Babies and Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Developmental Milestones: What Do They Mean?
  • Helping Your Blind Baby Develop Language
  • Language Development in Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Eating Skills for Babies and Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Picky Eaters
  • Living Life While Helping Your Blind Child Develop
  • Communication Skills for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
  • How to Adapt Your Language When Your Child Has No Visual Information: Communication and Blindness
  • Social Communication Skills: How to Adapt Your Language with Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.

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FamilyConnect is an online, multimedia community created to give parents of visually impaired children a place to support each other, share stories and concerns, and link to local resources.

Note: Information provided through the APH ConnectCenter is for educational and informational use. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician or other professionals as appropriate for medical, legal, financial, and related advice. APH does not endorse any particular treatment, organization, or product (other than products directly sold by APH).

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How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Remember when you were a kid and you used to sing tons of songs? You knew all the words and hand motions that went with each song, didn’t you?

Then you grew up and had kids of your own and all those lyrics and signs just blew right out of your brain!

Simple nursery rhymes like Itsy Bitsy Spider or Wheels on the Bus are staples of childhood, and there’s a good reason for it, too. These songs help with memory and language comprehension; teach social skills as we all sing together; and aid in strengthening a child’s fine and gross motor muscles.

If your child is blind or visually impaired you may think that songs with hand motions are “too visual” for them, but there is so much more to these songs than what you can see with your eyes!

Think about all your child can learn just by moving their hands in rhythm with a song: they can connect with you as you teach them the signs hand over hand; they can learn basic turn taking skills; they may find themselves motivated to reach high above them as they do Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; or they might learn body awareness as they do Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes; plus they’ll have fun doing it because music always makes things more enjoyable!

So get yourself ready to play with your child and sing all those great songs from your own childhood by relearning the songs and movements. Below you’ll find videos for some of your favorite songs, like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Where is Thumbkin, and Wheels on the Bus.

The Wheels on the Bus is a song that gets the whole body moving: your arms swing in and out with the doors, your body jumps up and down with the people, and your hands move back and forth with the wipers. Ivan’s favorite part of the song is the babies who say, “Wah, wah, wah.” The hand motion used to do this is actually very difficult to master, so help your child ball their hand into a fist and rub their eyes. The twisting and turning of the wrist is a great fine motor activity, too.

Peanut Butter & Jelly is a great song to pair with the real thing. Pull out some peanut butter and jelly and bread so your child can touch the objects while you sing and sign about them.

This song includes a lot of grand motions way up high and way down low. This is a great song to sing with kids who don’t like to reach out too far from their bodies.

I love this song because it’s so easy to sing. Plus it’s a great song to help teach body awareness as your sticky hands get “stuck” to your head, nose, and shoulders.

Where is Thumbkin? is such a classic song and perfect for kids who don’t like to use their hands and fingers. Get your child to isolate each finger in the song so they’ll be more aware of their hands.

Anchor Center for Blind Children

Anchor Center for Blind Children provides early education and intervention services for children in Denver, Colorado

Foundation for Blind Children

FBC services for infants, up to age three, are provided in the family home with the goal of educating and empowering parents to facilitate optimal learning and development of their young blind child

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has a campus for ages 6 through 21 and support services for birth through transition from high school.

Georgia Academy for the Blind

Georgia School for the Blind is located in Macon, Georgia, and serves the needs of Georgia’s blind population, with or without additional disabilities.

Special Needs vs Mainstream School

Are you debating placing your blind child in a special needs school versus a mainstream school? Charlotte discusses how she made this decision for her daughter Scarlett.

Anova Education and Behavior Services

Anova is a Northern California non-profit K-12 school and treatment center specializing in children with autism and related social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired

The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, Missouri serves any infant to school-age child who is blind or visually impaired by providing “innovative and stimulating programs customized for each student.”

Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind

Idaho School for the Blind provides supplemental educational services, early intervention/education, consultation and transition support to families and local school districts throughout Idaho.

Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

Illinois School for the Visually Impaired serves as a statewide educational resource offering students with visual impairments quality educational services which will enable them to become personally productive and self-sufficient citizens.

The Governor Morehead School for the Blind

The Governor Morehead School for the Blind is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and serves all of North Carolina’s visually impaired needs.

The Hadley School for the Blind

The Hadley School for the blind is known for offering distance education to anyone who wants or needs blindness education, including parents of blind children.

Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind

Located on the island of O’ahu, the Hawai’i School for the Deaf and Blind provides an ASL bilingual-bicultural program to the islands’ deaf, blind and deafblind students

Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is located in Vinton, Iowa, and provides educational opportunities, resources and support services for Iowa students who are blind or visually impaired.

Missouri School for the Blind

Missouri School for the Blind (MSB) serves all students in Missouri who are blind, with or without additional disabilities.

Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired serves children and young adults statewide who are blind or visually impaired, with or without additional disabilities.

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How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

What is it like to interview a person with blindness or visual impairment? Are there things you shouldn’t say? What kind of behavior is the candidate expecting from you?

Keep these points in mind during the interview, and remember — a person who is blind or visually impaired is, before anything else, a person.

  • Don’t ask about the disability/diagnosis. Can you perform all the required job functions, tasks, and/or duties listed here, with or without accommodation? How would you perform the task(s) and with what accommodation(s)?
  • Operate under the presumption that the visually impaired person can do the job until they prove otherwise.
  • Create a welcoming environment for disclosure. State your company’s commitment to hiring people of all backgrounds and abilities during the interview process.
  • Use people first language (blind person vs. a person who is blind or a person with a visual impairment)
  • Always identify yourself and introduce who is present
  • There is a wide range of visual impairments; some people may navigate using a cane or a dog, while others may have enough usable vision to navigate independently. Offer to give the candidate sighted guide (the person with a visual impairment will hold right above your elbow) and give verbal queues and directions.

So what can you do to attract more candidates with blindness or visual impairment to your search? Consider these tips to expand your job posting’s reach.

Interview Tips for Employers

1. Look beyond employee referrals — referrals are a trusted source of candidates, but they may inhibit diversity.

2. State your commitment to inclusion on your company’s career website.

3. Work with local and state agencies to source candidates with disabilities.

4. Expand your job posting presence beyond the mainstream channels — try out a diversity-focused job board.

5. Loosen restrictions on your applicant tracking systems — are you screening out candidates for unnecessary qualifications like driver’s licenses?

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

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“Eyes on the future” is the mantra of the ‘World Sight Day’ held this month to raise awareness of blindness and vision impairment. New technologies, developed by European researchers offering the visually impaired greater independence, live up to this vision.

Many of the most innovative systems have been created by a consortium of companies and research institutes working in the EU-funded ENABLED project.

The project has led to 17 prototype devices and software platforms being developed to help the visually impaired, two of which have been patented.

Guide dogs, canes, Braille and screen readers that turn digital text into spoken audio all help to improve the lives of the blind or severely visually impaired, but none of these tools can make up for having a friend or relative accompany a blind person around and assist them in their daily life. However, a human helper is not always available.

“Blind people often have to rely on others to do things that we do naturally… and that restricts their independence,” explains Wai Yu, the project’s coordinator and a researcher at the Virtual Engineering Centre at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Activities that the sighted take for granted, such as going for a walk in the park or trying out a new restaurant, becomes an odyssey for the visually impaired, particularly when they do not already know the route by heart.

A guide dog can help them avoid dangers in the street, be it a curb or a lamppost, but it cannot show them a new route. People can be asked for directions, but following them is another matter entirely when you cannot read street signs or see landmarks.

Bridging the information gap

Those barriers have typically prevented the visually impaired from exploring the world around them on their own, but now, with the new technologies, they can surmount some of these barriers.

“Our goal was to give blind people more independence by helping to bridge the information gap with the sighted,” Yu says.

To achieve that, the project partners worked in two broad areas. On the one hand, they developed software applications with tactile, haptic and audio feedback devices to help visually impaired people feel and hear digital maps of where they want to go. On the other hand, they created new haptic and tactile devices to guide them when they are out in the street.

Maps you can feel

One of the patented prototypes, called VITAL, allows users to access a tactile map of an area. Using a device akin to a computer mouse they can move a cursor around the map and small pins will create shapes under the palm of their hand.

The device could produce the sensation of a square block to define a building, or form into different icons to depict different shops and services – an ‘H’ for a hospital, for example.

“Braille readers and audio readers let blind people read or hear text from computers and the internet, but until now there has been no easy or practical way to portray graphical information,” Yu says. “We chose to work with maps because they are particularly useful for visually impaired people.”

Having obtained a ‘mental image’ of the map from the computer, users can then take the route information with them when they venture outside. For that purpose, the project partners used a commercially available navigation aid called the Trekker, which uses GPS to guide users as they walk around, much like a navigation system in a car.

An electronic guide

However, the Trekker gives only spoken directions, something that can be disconcerting for blind people, who may not want to draw attention to themselves. The device can often be hard to hear in noisy, city environments.

The ENABLED team therefore developed prototypes to provide directions through tactile and haptic feedback, rather than via audio alone.

One patented device developed by the project team, the VIFLEX, looks similar to a TV remote control with a movable plate at the front. The user rests his thumb on the plate, which tilts in eight directions to guide users based on the directions given by the Trekker.

“It is more discreet and natural than following audio commands,” Yu says.

The aim of the ENABLED team’s research is not to replace tried and tested aids for the blind, such as canes and guide dogs, but to complement them with new technologies that can improve the independence and autonomy of the visually impaired.

For the visually impaired worldwide, such technologies should start to become a reality over the coming years as the applications developed by the ENABLED team make their way into commercial products.

Start With What You Know

It is only natural for preschool teachers to feel hesitant upon learning they will have a child with a vision loss in the classroom. There are so many factors that must be taken into consideration – especially the best practices for teaching. A curriculum for a visually impaired preschool child is not readily available, and the teacher will most likely be left wondering, “Where do I begin?”

Experts will tell you that the most logical beginning point is to start with what you already know. Set aside some time for yourself to simply write down information you have:

  • about the child
  • about their vision loss, and any other disability
  • about the family or caregiver
  • about your own preschool program
  • about how you already cater for children with additional needs

It is also worth addressing some of your own concerns and fears about the situation. It is logical that you will feel some degree of apprehension if this is the first time you have enrolled a child with a vision loss into your program. So address those fears by putting them in writing. Writing down exactly what worries you makes it easier to put strategies in place to counter each concern.

Prepare Your Preschool

Take a walk around your preschool environment and take note of any potential dangers for a child with a vision loss. Think about normal pathways through the preschool and consider how you can ensure these are hazard-free. Think about:

  • items that could cause a trip or fall
  • items at floor level as well as suspended or on surfaces
  • items that move from one session to another
  • furniture that could cause a bump or unexpected contact that could frighten a child

As well as thinking about what to remove or alter, consider how to make the preschool a positive and interesting experience. Children with a vision loss need their other senses engaged but not overloaded. Experiences that are tactile or auditory provide an alternative means for exploration and discovery within a safe and predictable environment. You may find a therapist who knows the child well can advise you on this topic and help you orient the child to the preschool environment safely and easily.

Goal Setting

Organize a meeting with all the people who have a role to play in the child’s life. This could include:

  • parents or caregiver
  • preschool teacher
  • teacher assistants
  • other family members if appropriate
  • visiting teacher or other agencies that provide care and advice (search your state’s website)
  • interpreters if appropriate
  • advocate if appropriate

Create an agenda for the meeting with a suggested time line and opportunities for each person to speak and be heard. Set goals for the child that are realistic and positive, and are able to be measured and reported on at a later date. Identify any resourcing needs that may exist, such as the need for specialist equipment or additional support person time. See this meeting as a chance to get everyone on the team feeling positive about the start of the preschool experience for the child, and to set up a supportive structure that will work into the future to address any issues when they arise.

By the time you conclude the meeting, hopefully you will be prepared for teaching a visually impaired preschool child this year in a positive, success, focused fashion.

Like people, dogs often experience failing eyesight as they get older—and need a “seeing eye” just as you would. Caring for a dog who is losing his vision (or who’s already gone blind) can offer a special set of challenges for the rest of the family. But a loss of eyesight certainly doesn’t mean a poor quality of life, especially for pet parents who are willing to adjust how they care for their impaired canine.

Common Causes

Dogs can go blind for a number of reasons, from disease to old age. Some of the most common reasons for blindness in dogs are cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, and suddenly acquired retinal degeneration (also known as SARDS).

Certain breeds and sexes are also more susceptible to blindness. Middle-aged female dogs, for instance, are especially prone to SARDS, which causes blindness quite suddenly. Dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, and mutts are at higher-than-average risk for the disease as well, according to research reported on by PetMD. Cataracts, meanwhile, are more common in miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, golden retrievers, Boston terriers, and Siberian huskies.

Beta Carotene

Good nutrition is vital to your dog’s health and can help keep his vision healthy in some cases, although SARDS and similar vision-impairing conditions have no known treatment or approach to prevention.

But, beta carotene can help a dog’s vision. According to Pet360, several foods that are healthy for both of you, such as carrots and cantelope, are known to strengthen a dog’s vision and reduce the chances of cataracts. Look for dog food that lists beta carotene in its ingredients — Hill’s® Science Diet®, for example.

Necessary veterinary care will vary depending on what’s causing your dog’s blindness. Along with beta carotene, your vet might suggest seeing a veterinary ophthalmologist, which may be more expensive than routine care. When searching for this specialist, a good place to start is an online directory kept by your country’s veterinary ophthalmologist professional organization, such as American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist (ACVO).

Living with a Blind Dog

Many volunteer organizations are actually dedicated to helping blind and visually impaired dogs by adopting them from various shelters. If you have a blind or visually impaired dog, you can reach out to these volunteer organizations for advice. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

  • Put tags or bells that jingle or make noise on other animals in the house — and consider wearing one yourself — so that your blind dog knows where his companion is.
  • Teach your dog commands such as “watch,” as observed by the nonprofit Best Friends, to make him aware he’s approaching a hindrance. Consider “step” as well, to teach him when a stair is in front of him.
  • Get down on your dog’s level to look for things in your home that could harm him. Sharp table corners, for instance, could harm your dog if he approaches too quickly.
  • Help put together a routine for him; this could include the trip from his bed to his food, the back door, and his favorite napping spot. Keep these pathways void of any obstacles to make it easier for him to get around. When taking him outside, you might need to keep him on a leash to guide him to his favorite spots to do his business. After time, his other senses will strengthen and help him be able to do this routine behavior on his own.
  • Help him stay active. Just because your dog is visually-impaired doesn’t mean he can’t have fun and play. Much like a seeing-eye dog would do for a visually impaired person, you can help guide your dog along with a leash. Make sure to keep the leash short so you can better direct him where to go. It’s also nice to let him sniff around and take in his surroundings through smell. It’s a small gesture, but one he’ll be sure to appreciate. You can also help him play. Find an open, safe area for him to be able to run around in like a backyard and play fetch with dog toys that make a noise. Through his sense of smell and hearing, he will eventually be able to track down the ball, and as you call to him to bring it back he’ll use those same senses to come back to you.

There’s no doubt that the care of blindness in dogs will take some special effort. But with love and time, both of you can adjust to this natural condition. Just because your dog cannot see as he used to, doesn’t mean his quality of life has to suffer. Continue to show him the same love and affection that you always have and he will return the favor.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Erie, Pennsylviania with her cat Olive.

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How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Parents, family members and guardians are an integral part of the Perkins community. As the primary caregivers to someone who is blind or visually impaired, you need resources and knowledge to help your child succeed and grow.

We strive to equip families with the tools they need to take an active role in their child’s education every step of the way.

Working from home? We’ve got you covered

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Brian Switzer is an assistive technology instructor with Career Launch @ Perkins.

If you are like me, you went to bed one night in March and awoke the next day to a whole new reality. On the work side of things, it was exciting. Instead of commuting to work, we got to sleep in a little bit longer and work from home! Whoo! As working from home continued, a lot of us have been asking “How can I make my work from home space more effective for me?” Luckily, I’m here to help! Here are the top lessons I’ve learned in my work from home adventure.

  1. Transform Your Laptop. A laptop is designed with two things in mind: portability and looking cool. Have you noticed that the keys on a laptop are difficult to type on? They are designed to be sleek-looking. As an assistive technology instructor, I could rant all day about the problems of travel and discoverability with a laptop keyboard, but I will not bore you with the science of keyboards. Instead, I suggest buying a mechanical keyboard. They allow you to type as if you are on a typical desktop keyboard. And good news: you can find them fairly cheaply.
  2. Invest in a microphone. Another common problem with laptops is that the microphones are not great. When you are spending time in virtual meetings, your co-workers want to hear your lovely voice. Personally, I like using headphones with a USB microphone. However, a headset with a built-in microphone will do the trick as well. Added benefits of a headset are that it doesn’t pick up as much keyboard typing noise and it takes up less space on your desk.
  3. Reduce Complexity. Our quickly assembled pandemic home offices often resemble a college dorm room. If you are like me, you might have towels hanging on closet doors, shoes in the middle of the room, and a dirty cookie sheet under the bed. Really! For someone who is blind or visually impaired, the more cluttered a space is, the more overwhelming it feels, and the more difficult it is to find the tools you need to do your work. My desk has a computer, a printer, and a pile of Ritz crackers to keep me energized as I work through the day. The room is largely empty except for an enormous pile of papers sitting next to the wall. This works for me, as someone who only has light perception, but the pile of papers might be overwhelming for someone who has some functional vision. To create simplicity, place decorative objects or objects that you do not use often in a drawer, a file cabinet, a closet, or behind a curtain.
  4. Control Ambient Lighting. Bright lights hurt my eyes, as it does for a lot of people with visual impairments. In my home office, I am able to control the light from outside with black-out shades. I always like to keep them closed, but my wife likes to open them up at times. Somehow, sitting in the dark does not work for her! *shrugs* There are many types of bulbs that you can select for the artificial lighting, including LED, natural lighting, and fluorescent bulbs. There are also 3-way bulbs that allow you to select between different levels of lighting. If you are feeling particularly opulent, you can invest in a dimmer switch. Figure out what works best for you.
  5. Control Device Lighting. There is one last source of light which is the light from our technology. Laptops and cell phones have built-in features that allow you to dim and brighten your screen. These devices also allow you to turn down the level of blue light. Blue light can be harmful to our retinas, especially for those of us with retinal deterioration. These features often appear in the settings in other terms like “warmer tones” or “bedtime mode”, so they might take a little bit of digging to find, but they are in most devices and worth the effort.
  6. Use Containers. Put what you can in containers, as a way to keep your space clean and functional. For example, I “containerize” my coffee by using a Yeti or Continga mug that has a secure lid. While these products advertise themselves as being “unspillable”, I have spilled even these mugs, so be careful! Another way to “containerize” is to use boxes with lids for your office supplies.
  7. Use High Contrast. If you have some usable vision, high contrast makes things so much easier. When I was younger and had functional vision, for instance, drinking out of a coffee mug that was a high contrast from the desk made it less likely that I would knock it over. Create contrast by putting a solid colored piece of cloth behind objects that you keep on your desk. Also, select office supplies that are high contrast. I say, if it helps you, then buy the neon pink stapler!
  8. Get Comfortable. You will be sitting at your desk between 7.5 and 8 hours a day. It should be a place where you feel comfortable. I like to keep snacks and coffee close by to help me feel energized. Depending on your job, you may also be able to listen to music or a podcast while you work. A friend uses a pillow for extra back support. Do what works for you.
  9. Build Exercise into Your Work Day. At work, it is easy to get up and move throughout the day. Often my guide dog, Intrigue, and I would stretch our legs as we traveled to meetings across the Perkins campus or on the other side of Boston. When you are home, you get significantly less exercise as everything you need is located in one place. This means that we need to pay extra attention to getting exercise throughout the day. Set reminders on your phone to get you up every hour or two. You might walk around your apartment or block, stretch, do jumping jacks or crunches. You pick! And mix it up. Who knows, you might even like to do wall push-ups, like me (pictured below). Just make sure that your Brailler is far enough away that you do not land on it!

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Brian does wall pushups from handstand position.

I hope these tips and ideas help you be your best self at work today, and every day!

Brian Switzer is the Access Technology Instructor for Career Launch @ Perkins, a training and career services program helping adults ages 18-35 land career-track jobs.

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Care packages for blind and visually impaired.

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MADISON, Ga. (CBS46) — There’s a vulnerable group of people struggling during the coronavirus, and a local non-profit is asking for help getting care packages to them.

That nonprofit is working to get basic necessities to the blind and visually impaired out in the rural communities.

“When you have a disability, you’re limited as is,” said Rita Harris, the Founder and President Of Living Life Team, Inc.

After losing 80-percent of her vision, and not having a support system in her area, Rita Harris started Living Life Team in 2016.

“A nonprofit organization that provides a support system for people who are blind or visually impaired,” Harris said.

The organization helps the blind and visually impaired become independent…but the Coronavirus pandemic has caused any progress to come to a screeching halt.

“You have to stay in, and you’re not able to work on your independence as much,” added Harris, “You also have to rely on other people even more.”

That’s why they’re asking for donations, and volunteers to help pack and deliver care packages to their homes.

“Food items, grocery items, cleaning items, really items they may need,” Harris added.

Currently, many of these people don’t have access to grocery stores, some live alone, and some don’t have a support system.

“Especially in the rural areas, where resources are very limited, and our main goal is to just help people who are blind and visually impaired, help them gain confidence so they can get on their way to independent living and live productive lives,” said Harris, “There’s always someone who is worse off than you are in your situation, but we’re all in this together, and we all need to support each other.”

The practical advice and information given here will help you feel confident about guiding people with sight loss.

Meeting, greeting and guiding

How do you introduce yourself to someone with sight loss? How do you support someone with sight loss in getting around within buildings and outside? Each person’s experience is different and unique and there are no hard and fast rules on how to assist people with sight loss. If you see somebody who you think may need help, then ask. Let them tell you what kind of help they need. It may be that they need help crossing the road or finding the train station.

If your help is needed, keep a few common-sense things in mind:

  • Introduce yourself and talk directly to the person you are guiding.
  • If you are going to guide them, ask them how they like to be guided.
  • Tell them about kerbs and steps as you approach them and say whether they go up or down.
  • Mention any potential hazards that lie ahead and say where they are.
  • If you are guiding someone into a seat, place their hand on the back of the seat before they sit down, so they can orientate themselves.
  • Don’t walk away without saying you are leaving.

Download one of our “How to Guide” documents for more detailed information about guiding blind and partially sighted people:

Watch our guiding videos

Watch our videos of Giles and Dolly explaining how they like to be guided and give some helpful tips on how to guide a blind or partially sighted person.


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  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Facebook
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  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired – YouTube
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1100 West 45th St., Austin, TX 78756 – (512) 454-8631

Infant Teacher Of The Visually Impaired: Roles And Responsibilities

Infants: Below are additional roles and responsibilities that the VI teacher assumes for infants.

  1. Acquire and expand information about impact of visual impairment on child’s development, working with families, current research, resources, etc.
  2. Acquire information and follow all IDEA Part H (ECI) timelines and requirements.
  3. Screen referrals for functional vision performance.
  4. Administer Functional Vision Assessments for identified infants. (On-going; update for 6 month reviews & IFSP)
  5. Administer Learning Media Assessments for identified infants. (On-going; update for 6 month reviews & IFSP)
  6. Consult with Early Childhood Intervention staff and parents concerning assessments (INSITE, E-LAP, Hawaii, Oregon, etc.) and evaluations, modifications, strategies, impact of vision loss, vision screening, TEA VI requirements (TEA Registration, TEA VI Supplemental Form, etc.), workshop and conference information. Provide them with information regarding the unique needs of the VI infant and assure that they fully understand those needs.
  7. Develop IFSP with team. Attend annual and six-month IFSP meetings.
  8. Provide services to visually impaired infants and parent training as outlined on the IFSP. Areas may include:
    • Learning Media–ensure the child has opportunities to have toys and activities to use all sensory modalities.
    • Bonding with family members
    • Motor–Gross, Fine, and O&M/Early Movement
    • Self-Help–Eating and Drinking, Dressing and Undressing, Toileting, Personal Hygiene, Sleeping Patterns
    • Cognition–Body Concepts, Object Exploration and Manipulation, Experience-Based Early Concept Development, Problem-Solving
    • Social-Emotional
    • Communication–Receptive and Expressive
    • Sensory–Vision (Low Vision Efficiency Training, Large Print/Pictures/Books, Optical Devices), Auditory/Listening Skills, Tactual (Pre-Braille/Tactile Symbols), Vestibular, Sensory Integration
    • Family Needs
    • Adaptive Devices
  9. Travel to infant’s home to deliver home instruction and parent training.
  10. Act as consultant to day care providers, extended family members, Early Childhood Intervention staff, Related Service Staff, etc. when needed.
  11. Order adaptive and tactual aids.
  12. Monitor identified visually impaired students.
  13. Act as a liaison and consultant with the following persons/staff:
    • Commission for the Blind case workers
    • doctors, ophthalmologists, neurologists
    • parents and other caregivers
    • district support personnel
    • orientation and mobility specialist
    • occupational therapist
    • physical therapist
    • speech therapist
    • Education Service Center staff
    • Early Childhood Intervention staff
  14. Provide information and materials to help ensure the VI infant’s home is an appropriate learning environment (lighting needs, wide variety of objects/toys to explore and manipulate, Little Room, light box, etc.)
  15. Ensure that parents have opportunities to meet and obtain information about visual impairment issues at parent meetings, workshops, conferences, etc. These can be held locally or regionally with ISD staff working with local resources such as ESC, TCB, ECI, etc. Parents can also be encouraged to attend state workshops and conferences (TCB, TSBVI, etc. can be contacted for possible financial assistance.).
  16. Participate in transition planning.
  17. Perform other duties as required for Special Education such as:
    • attend annual IFSPs (required) and 6-month reviews ( strongly suggested), staff meetings, etc.
    • maintain student folders
    • update/maintain eligibility folders
    • follow required duties for Special Education
    • follow IDEA Part H timelines and requirements
    • complete paperwork for re-evaluation
    • maintain materials inventory
  18. Register VI infant with TEA.

Developed by TSBVI Outreach.

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the .

When you are a parent who is blind or visually impaired, chances are you’re fairly used to administering eyedrops into your own eyes on a daily basis. However, when putting drops into the eyes of a squiggly infant or screaming toddler, it’s an entirely different ball game.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Eye drops provide medication directly into your children’s eyes. Doctors prescribe drops to pediatric patients for a variety of reasons, including infections like conjunctivitis (pink eye), dry eye, and seasonal allergies. Children dislike the sensation of having drops placed into their eyes for two reasons. First, eye drops will sometimes leave an unpleasant aftertaste in your child’s mouth, nose, and throat. Secondly, parents must often restrain their children to ensure the drops go into the eyes.

While restraining our children is often stressful for both parent and child, we have to remember the big picture: our children need this medication because they have an illness that must be treated. The following methods may help you administer your child’s eye drops as a parent who is blind or visually impaired.

Method One: Car Seat Head Support:

For infants birth to 12 months, parents who are blind or visually impaired may choose to use their rear-facing car seat as a way to safely administer eye drops. Children’s necks and skulls are extremely fragile during this period of development. Purchasing a car seat head support and strapping your child into their car seat, allows them to have good head positioning and may prevent injury.

Steps for Administering Eye Drops for Babies:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you have disposable gloves, you may also choose to wear them.
  2. Strap your child in their rear-facing car seat and position their head safely in the head support.
  3. If your child has any crusted material or residue around the eye, gently wipe it away with a warm washcloth. Make sure to use a different washcloth for each eye so as not to spread infection.
  4. Tilt the car seat slightly backward and put the prescribed number of drops in the corner of your infant’s eye, closest to the bridge of their nose.
  5. Make sure not to touch the dropper directly to your child’s eye, eyelashes, or eyelid to prevent infection.
  6. If both eyes require medication, give your baby a short break in between before repeating the process.
  7. Have a favorite pacifier, bottle, or soft toy nearby to help soothe your baby.
  8. Wash your hands throughout before removing your child from their car seat.

Method Two: Leg Work:

Toddlers from 12 to 36 months will often be extremely fearful of eye drops and fight tooth and nail to prevent their parents from administering them. For this method, parents who are blind or visually impaired will rely on their legs to help support their child’s head as they put in their drops.

Steps for Administering Eye Drops for Toddlers:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you have disposable gloves, you may also choose to wear them.
  2. On the floor, have your child lie on their back. If you have hardwood floors, cushion your child underneath with either a towel or small area rug. Then place a pillow under your child’s shoulders or a rolled up towel under his neck so that their head is slightly tilted back.
  3. If your child has any crusted material or residue around the eye, gently wipe it away with a warm washcloth. As stated previously, be sure to use a different washcloth for each eye so as not to spread infection.
  4. If your toddler will not sit still, gently place your child’s arms under the calves of your legs and place the soles of your feet over each ear.
  5. Put the prescribed number of drops into your child’s eye.
  6. Make sure not to touch the dropper directly to your child’s eye, eyelashes, or eyelid to prevent infection.
  7. Don’t give your child a rest in between if you need to place drops in both eyes. The quicker you finish the task, the quicker they can resume their usual activity.
  8. Wash your hands thoroughly after application.

Method 3: Lower Lid/Seated Application:

As your child gets older, you may be able to somewhat reason with them about their need for eye drops. Children ages 4 and up have the cognitive capability to understand they are unwell and need the medication their doctor has prescribed. Try explaining the procedure for administering eye drops to your child. Emphasize that with their cooperation, you can get the job done fairly quickly. If your child is agreeable, you may choose to use this method.

Steps for Administering Eye Drops for Children:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you have disposable gloves, you may also choose to wear them.
  2. Ask your child to move to a seated position and tilt their head slightly back.
  3. If your child has any crusted material or residue around the eye, gently wipe it away with a warm washcloth.
  4. Make sure to use a different washcloth for each eye so as not to spread infection.
  5. Place your pointer finger in the upper center of your child’s cheek. Using your finger, gently push down in this area, exposing your child’s lower eyelid.
  6. Prompt your child to look up.
  7. Put the prescribed number of drops between the lower part of each eyelid.
  8. Make sure not to touch the dropper directly to your child’s eye, eyelashes, or eyelid to prevent infection.
  9. Ask your child to blink, allowing the drops to coat the entire eye.
  10. Repeat the process in the opposite eye if necessary.
  11. Wash your hands thoroughly after application.

Method 4: The Buddy System:

Two adults are definitely better than one when it comes to administering eye drops as a parent who is blind or visually impaired. Choose any of the above-mentioned methodologies and just include an extra set of hands. Sometimes having a supportive voice to offer both you and your child emotional support makes the application less traumatic for all involved.

Still Feeling Uneasy:

If you are still feeling fearful or uneasy about administering eye drops into your child’s eyes, consult your pediatrician or ophthalmological professional. Ask these professionals for advice, and perhaps a demonstration, if possible. Remember, the end goal is to ensure your child gets the medication they need with the least amount of physical and emotional trauma. For them and you both.

If you have any hints or tips for administering eye drops to a child, drop me a comment below.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

As parents, we all want our kids to learn and have fun while doing it. But for the 19 million children worldwide who suffer from vision loss and blindness, it’s a bit more difficult. It turns out that due to incredible advancements in technology, like audiobooks and other computer-based learning, fewer and fewer blind children are learning how to read Braille. In the US, only 10% of visually impaired kids are learning the tactile reading system, down from 50% in 1950.

While audiobooks and other technologies are amazing, it is just as important that blind children learn how to read books than seeing children. The language of Braille can increase their chances of finding and holding down jobs later in life, and it connects them to their seeing classmates.

Phillippe Chazel, Treasurer of the European Blind Union explains, “With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille. This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.”

That’s why LEGO has developed a groundbreaking product to help visually impaired kids learn how to read: LEGO® Braille Bricks are designed using the same of studs as the Braille alphabet but remain fully compatible with the rest of the brand’s building blocks. Each piece has a printed letter or character so that blind students’ friends and teachers can learn along with them, making reading Braille more accessible and also more fun for young learners.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

The project is close to the heart of LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who is slowly losing his sight due to a genetic disorder. “The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days,” he says.

The LEGO Braille Bricks were unveiled in Paris this week at the Sustainable Brands Conference. Currently being tested in several languages including English, a final product is expected in 2020. The bricks will be distributed free of charge to select partner programs across the globe.

Credit: Bethany Clarke

Credit: Bethany Clarke

A little known Twitter feature can help the visually impaired get a better look at the photos you share on the platform.

This feature, which allows users to add text descriptions to their images, was first introduced in 2016 and is back in the spotlight after blind Twitter user Rob Long asked more users to enable the feature on their own account.

Long, whose Twitter bio says he was a veteran who lost his sight in Afghanistan, shared a series of images showing users how to enable the feature to create “a more accessible Twitter for blind users.”

I’m a blind twitter user. There are a lot of us out there. Increase your ability to reach us and help us interact with your pictures, it’s really simple and makes a huge difference to our twitter experiance allowing us to see your images our way. Thanks for the description 😎 pic.twitter.com/hCsjoFdmev

This is how captioning works and why it’s important. Would really appreciate people spreading the word and creating a more accessible twitter for blind users. Thanks 🙈 pic.twitter.com/LMntCuEOqy

Most people didn’t even know the social media site had such an option.

Hi Rob, I had no idea about this. I work for the RNLI and post lots of visual stuff. I’ll be letting my colleagues know about this and please feel free to follow and let us know how we are doing. Hello from Dublin 👋

Thanks Rob, I didn’t know that. It’s now enabled, and retweeted so others can benefit as well! Cheers mate

When you enable the Compose image descriptions feature, every time you upload a photo to Twitter, you’ll get the option to add a text description for the visually impaired. Note that image descriptions can’t be added to GIFs or videos.

Here’s how to enable the feature on your phone:

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

(Pocket-lint) – In 2019, Google released Lookout, an app designed to use artificial intelligence to scan the surrounding world and help blind or visually impaired people negotiate their surroundings. The idea being to give those people more independence.

Now that app has been updated with more features to make it even more useful. One such feature gives the app the ability to read grocery labels and signs to allow the visually impaired to more easily identify foodstuffs.

Another improvement is the app will now work on any Android device with at least 2GB of RAM running Android 6.0 or above. When it first launched, Lookout was only available to Google Pixel users and only in the US. Now it’s more widely available, it should be more useful to more people.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Lookout also now has a more accessible design thanks to better compatibility with TalkBack, Android’s screen reader. Using that system, the app can identify food labels and then read them out loud for the user.

Similarly, there’s a document scanning mode which captures images of text and then reads them to the user with very little fuss. The app can even handle simple things like the document being upside down.

Lookout also has other features that include “Explore mode” which allows users to point their phone about and discover what’s in the surrounding environment. This is still in beta though as is said to be less accurate than some of the other modes.

It’s also worth noting that the food label mode requires the app to download extra data to help improve its accuracy and get faster results for the user. This is a 250MB download and can take five minutes to update.

Google also notes that the app works best when pointed in the right direction. The suggestion here is to pop your phone in your shirt pocket or on a lanyard around your neck if you’re not able to easily point it at things.

Board games, puzzles, video games and screen-free learning toys are all believed will be coveted this holiday season. Marissa DiBartolo of The Toy Insider predicts Baby Yoda will be the No. 1 toy on wish lists this year. (Aug. 4) AP Domestic

One of the most popular toy brands has a new product designed for blind and visually impaired children.

Lego and the Lego Foundation have launched a line of toy blocks called Braille Bricks with studs on top that reflect individual letters and numbers in the braille alphabet.

The bricks are available in seven countries including the U.S. and the nonprofit American Printing House for the Blind is shipping the bricks to school districts across the nation for free, according to a news release.

“Reading braille means literacy that connects students to lifelong learning and opportunity, ” said Craig Meador, president of the nonprofit, in a statement, adding the bricks are an “incredible tool to help introduce students to braille.”

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Lego Braille Bricks have studs on top that reflect individual letters and numbers in the braille alphabet. (Photo: Lego)

The bricks are being sent to blindness education representatives who will work with school districts and teachers to put them in the hands of students, the release said.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Lego Braille Bricks are now available in seven countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and United Kingdom. (Photo: Lego)

“Learning through play is a powerful way for all children to develop the breadth of skills, such as creativity, collaboration and communication, that they need to thrive in an ever-changing world,” said John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, in a statement. “With this project, we are bringing a playful and inclusive approach to learning Braille to children.”

Lego said it plans to expand the availability of the blocks to other countries but did not announce if the blocks will one day be sold in stores.

Learn more about the bricks and find lessons for teachers at www.legobraillebricks.com.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

As parents, we all want our kids to learn and have fun while doing it. But for the 19 million children worldwide who suffer from vision loss and blindness, it’s a bit more difficult. It turns out that due to incredible advancements in technology, like audiobooks and other computer-based learning, fewer and fewer blind children are learning how to read Braille. In the US, only 10% of visually impaired kids are learning the tactile reading system, down from 50% in 1950.

While audiobooks and other technologies are amazing, it is just as important that blind children learn how to read books than seeing children. The language of Braille can increase their chances of finding and holding down jobs later in life, and it connects them to their seeing classmates.

Phillippe Chazel, Treasurer of the European Blind Union explains, “With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille. This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.”

That’s why LEGO has developed a groundbreaking product to help visually impaired kids learn how to read: LEGO® Braille Bricks are designed using the same of studs as the Braille alphabet but remain fully compatible with the rest of the brand’s building blocks. Each piece has a printed letter or character so that blind students’ friends and teachers can learn along with them, making reading Braille more accessible and also more fun for young learners.

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

The project is close to the heart of LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who is slowly losing his sight due to a genetic disorder. “The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days,” he says.

The LEGO Braille Bricks were unveiled in Paris this week at the Sustainable Brands Conference. Currently being tested in several languages including English, a final product is expected in 2020. The bricks will be distributed free of charge to select partner programs across the globe.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) understands that information is power. We are committed to connecting parents and guardians of children who are blind or visually impaired to life-changing information, resources, local services, and a vibrant and supportive community.

That’s why AFB launched FamilyConnect—which as of July 1, will be stewarded by the American Printing House for the Blind—a free, comprehensive resource of information and support for parents of children who are blind or visually impaired.

Recommended Links from FamilyConnect

  • FamilyConnect is a website created to give parents of visually impaired children a place to support each other, share stories and concerns, and find resources on raising their children from birth to adulthood.
  • The “After the Diagnosis” section addresses many common concerns of those who have children recently diagnosed with an eye condition. It provides eye condition-specific information as well as general guidance such as instructing parents on successfully working with a child’s medical professionals, adapting the family home, and obtaining helpful products and toys. This section also introduces parents to success stories of those living well with vision loss.
  • The “Browse by Age” section provides articles on age-specific information on raising a visually impaired child—addressing family relationships and social activities, growth and development, pertinent education issues, assistive technology, and more.
  • The “Multiple Disabilities” section delivers information to support the learning, communication, and independence of children who are visually impaired and have an additional disability.

Know Your Rights as the Parent of a Visually Impaired Child

The “Know Your Rights” section on the American Foundation for the Blind’s website presents information on the United States’ current special education law and outlines the assessments and services many children with low vision and blindness are eligible to receive. Additionally, you can find information on early intervention services, accommodations and modifications your child is entitled to, and how to be an effective advocate for your child.

The Cogswell-Macy Act

The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 1120 and in the Senate as S. 2087. AFB and organizations across the blind, deafblind, and deaf communities are working hard to drum up support for these bills so that this legislation can become a reality. The Cogswell-Macy Act would ensure specialized instruction, increase the availability of services and resources, enhance accountability, and increase research into best practices for teaching and evaluating students with visual impairments.

Learn more about the Cogswell-Macy Act by visiting the following links on AFB.org.

For more information about Americans of all ages with vision loss, visit “Statistical Snapshots from the American Foundation for the Blind.”

How to Help Your Blind or Visually Impaired Infant Sleep

Wakana Sugiyama, a Tokyo-based business analyst at Google who is legally blind.

Navigating around in today’s world is as simple as ordering a cup of coffee. Between the various modes of transportation and myriad geolocating apps out there, getting from point A to point B is generally quite straightforward. For the visually impaired, however, the challenges are very real and it can be difficult to navigate alone without any assistance. Today, on World Sight Day, the Google Maps team announced the launch of an additional feature that gives a more detailed voice guidance to those who can’t rely on their vision.

The initiative was spearheaded by Wakana Sugiyama, a Tokyo-based business analyst at Google who is legally blind and uses a walking cane to move around. Going from her home to her office is a route she is comfortable taking as she is familiar with it – but venturing some place new and unfamiliar can be an intimidating experience.

“Some of my most pressing concerns include knowing if I’m going the right way or if a street is safe to cross,” she said. “I also frequently wonder if I missed a turn, if I’m on the correct side of the street at the right time, and of course, whether I’ve reached my destination, or if I’ve already passed it.”

Sugiyama is among the 36 million people who are blind worldwide — a figure that rises to 253 million people when factoring in the visually impaired. Conditions include glaucoma, retinal degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, among others.

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Eye Spy A Solution

The Japanese Googler has spent the past year working with the Google Maps team to develop a more helpful navigation solution for the visually impaired.

Starting today, individuals in Japan and the U.S. will be able to activate a new feature in Google Maps on both Android and iOS to receive more verbal updates on walking trips. The app will provide periodic announcements, alerts, warnings and provide a compass heading as well.

To turn the feature on, users can go to the Google Maps settings and select “Navigation.” At the bottom of the list will be the option to enable “Detailed voice guidance,” beneath the “Walking options” heading.

Apple is reportedly also working on making its Maps app more accessible for visually impaired users. The Cupertino-based giant has applied for a patent for “touch-based exploration of maps for screen reader users.” Whether this will come to fruition or not is unclear at this stage.

Anyone Can Use It

While Google Map’s new feature aims to assist the visually impaired, it can also help someone who wants a more screen-free experience on their walking trip, whether it’s a parent pushing a stroller or a traveller dragging suitcases.

“This may not sound extraordinary to those with sight, but for people who are blind or have low vision, this can help us explore new and unfamiliar places,” Sugiyama wrote in a blog post.

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“The idea doesn’t have to be an extraordinary VR experience to be groundbreaking,” said Rebecca Moore, a product director at Google Maps. “The solution can be simple.”

This is what Sugiyama was trying to convey during Google’s Geo for Everyone hackathon, which took place in July 2018 simultaneously across a variety of Google offices — from New York City and Mountain View to Zurich and Tokyo. While some participants pitched high-tech solutions, the young woman kept it simple: a more detailed voice guidance. This feature is now fully integrated into the Google Maps app and didn’t require any additional satellite data.

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Wakana Sugiyama talking with colleagues.

Re-Tuning The Digital Map

“Detailed voice guidance directions are based on the same digital map of the world as our other directions, but we’ve re-tuned them to be optimized for users with vision impairment,” said Bill Steinmetz, a software engineer at Google Maps.

He adds that because the compass sensors on smartphones aren’t always very accurate, the team decided not to use them for detailed voice guidance – basing the vocal updates on the heading of the user’s motion instead.

“It’s actually beneficial as users don’t need to have their phone oriented in a certain way for the assistive voice guidance to work,” said Moore. So the users can have their phones in their pockets or their bags and just rely on audio feedback via their headphones.

While this feature is only available in Japan and the U.S. at this time, support for additional languages and countries are on the way, according to the Google Maps team.

Feels like we’re going in the right direction.

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Visually impaired people may find financial assistance through government programs, but private charities can add a personal touch that aids the legally blind on a case-by-case basis. The blind or legally blind sometimes have specific needs, and these private organizations can assist them swiftly with the correct remedies, which include visual assistance and living necessities.

Community Help

The Lions Club Foundation aids people with many disabilities throughout the world, but it mainly focuses on visually impaired and blindness issues. The foundation was established through the Lions Club, a civic organization, and members often participate in fund drives to financially assist the legally blind in their communities. Members get involved in making eyeglasses or supplying the needy with recycled glasses. The foundation contributes financially for cataract operations, treatments for various forms of blindness, upgrades to eye centers and training ophthalmologists. The foundation has provided millions of dollars on projects throughout the world. These programs help offset costs for the blind and partner with business and medical entities to help reduce the risk of preventable blindness. The foundation was established in 1968, the year Helen Keller, a world-renowned campaigner for the deaf and blind, died. Keller addressed a Lions Club convention in 1925 to spark the club’s interest in preventable blindness.

Providing Funds for Vision Improvement

Helen Keller International works to reduce blindness by providing services and products throughout the world. Its programs help promote self-sufficiency by training the visually impaired, as well as the poor, in skills to maintain their eye and overall health. Prevent Blindness America provides children and adults with the funding needed for vision screening. The screenings help prevent the risk of vision loss in schoolchildren and such disorders as glaucoma and other serious vision problems for children and adults. Prevent Blindness trains vision screeners and screening instructors through a national program. The volunteer eye health and safety organization works with local communities for vision care programs and promotes vision research to help prevent eye disease.

Living Needs

Helping Hands for the Blind, a nonprofit organization based in Chatsworth, California, helps with financial requirements for the blind from rent and groceries to legal help and grants for blind students. Helping Hands also serves as a problem-solving guide for the blind, with special programs to enhance travel capabilities for the blind and talking computers to help blind children and adults. The organization operates on its motto of giving people a hand up instead of a handout. Helping Hands includes a staff of blind people who understand the needs of other blind people in need. It was founded in 1990 by Robert J. Acosta, who was born blind, but managed to succeed as a professional teacher, teaching sighted students in the Los Angeles school district.

Free Guide Partners

Some charities provide financial assistance to help the blind get around and live as normally as possible. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind provides free guide dogs to assist blind people with independent living. The foundation also helps educate the blind in utilizing their pet aids through small class or individual instruction. It employs high standards for trainers as well as humane treatment of the animals used for the service. The dogs are also used to help people with other physical challenges, including the hearing impaired.

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Imagine yourself unable to see well enough to drive, and how that would change your life. I witness that scenario every day at home with my wife, who is legally blind, and a very busy person. She reveres Uber and Lyft because they provide her with the still remarkable option to get up and go whenever she wants, wherever she wants. So imagine her excitement a year ago when she was treated to a brief ride in a self-driving Waymo taxi. The safety driver asked my wife to buckle up and hit the “start” button. Yes, exactly! Where is that start button?

We all had a chuckle because the point of the excursion was to talk about Waymo’s commitment to accessibility in the development of self-driving taxis, which are already in service in Phoenix. Waymo is working closely with the Foundation for Blind Children (FBC) in Phoenix to get feedback on the experience, and also consulting with The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. We are delighted to announce that Waymo’s work on accessibility will be featured at Sight Tech Global , which is a virtual event (December 2-3) focused on how AI-related technologies will influence assistive technology and accessibility in the years ahead. Attendance is free and registration is open .

Joining the Waymo accessibility session are three key figures helping to guide Waymo’s work. Clement Wright is the Waymo product manager responsible for Waymo’s user experience and accessibility efforts. His focus is on ensuring all Waymo riders, including those with disabilities, can enjoy safe, comfortable and convenient rides in Waymo’s fully driverless service. Marc Ashton is CEO, Foundation for Blind Children, which is a Phoenix-based and nationally recognized leader in the education of blind children. Ashton’s son is blind, which led to his interest in the field and in 2007 to the role of CEO. Bryan Bashin is the CEO of Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, which offers education, training, advocacy and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Blind since college, Bashin has dedicated much of his career to advocating for equality, access, training and mentorship for individuals who are blind or low vision.

Waymo’s quest for a highly accessible, self-driving ride is no easy challenge. “ Today, ride-hailing and taxi drivers fulfill certain duties outside of strictly driving the car,” says Wright. “They may roll down the window at pickup to speak to a rider and help them find the car. One of our largest challenges as we work to build the Waymo Driver is ensuring that we understand all of the rider’s additional needs without a human driver in the car.”

The Waymo team has worked with adult members of the FBC to get feedback on the mobile app used to summon a Waymo taxi, for example, by using the way-finding mechanism of honking the taxi’s horn through the app. Time and again,” says Wright, “we’ve seen that a feature built to help a specific group of people, the visually impaired for example, is actually very helpful for the rest of our rider base as well. This has led us to a broader focus on inclusive design — looking at specific rider’s needs to understand key challenges, and then building solutions that help everyone.”

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to help people with disabilities, including the 1.3 million Americans who are legally blind, get where they need to go safely and efficiently. We will dive into how Waymo accounts for accessibility throughout its product development cycle and explore the critical role that feedback, from both blind and low-vision users, as well as partner organizations who represent those groups, plays in that process. Join us at Sight Tech Global on December 2-3 to join the session. Get your free pass now.

Sight Tech Global welcomes sponsors. Current sponsors include Verizon Media, Google, Waymo, Mojo Vision and Wells Fargo. The event is organized by volunteers and all proceeds from the event benefit The Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Silicon Valley.